The Institute was officially launched by the President of the Supreme Court, Lord Neuberger of Abbotsbury, on Friday, 21 March, 2014
Here you can read, below, the full speech of the President as well as those given by Interim Chief Executive Savas Hadjipavlou (also CE of the Probation Chiefs Association) and those of the representatives of our four sponsoring organisations: Sue Hall of the Probation Chiefs Association; Mark Ormerod of the Probation Association; Tom Rendon of Napo and Ben Priestley of UNISON.
Full text of speeches:
Lord Neuberger of Abbotsbury, President of the Supreme Court:
I was pleased to be asked to participate in the launch of the Probation Institute.
Many of the reasons for the need of such an organisation have already been covered by the previous speakers. However I think there is, perhaps, a little more that can be added about the role of the Institute in the context of maintaining confidence in our system of justice, and, by extension, confidence in the organisations that serve to make that system a reality.
The second point that I would like to make is that, while regulation and education are very important for the maintaining a high level of skill, honesty and commitment in any group, institutional culture and peer group example are equally vital. The best way of ensuring high standards in an organisation is to ensure that they are effectively taken for granted by all its members – that the high standards are, as it were, part of the DNA of all members. The existence of an institute which represents a centre of excellence for members of the organisation is a first class tool for achieving such an end.”
The public rightly expect that when someone has committed an offence, that the police are able to respond quickly and effectively; that the offender is brought before the courts with a clear case to answer; that those found to be guilty receive an appropriate sentence, one that is balanced between the need to protect the public, offer the offender the opportunity to acknowledge wrongdoing and be helped to reform or rehabilitate. In all this, victims should be treated well, their needs recognised and so far as practically possible met. In the end, victims ought to feel vindicated and that justice has been served.
Probation occupies a centre ground in this work. It supports courts by providing pre-sentence assessments and reports. It supervises those on community sentences, and, following release from prison, those on licence. As we’ve heard, probation workers bring to the task a wide range of skills, underpinned by a core set of ethics and values that look to offer for offenders the opportunity for change, and to support that through interventions. Probation also has a key role linking into other services as needed. The work requires a thorough knowledge of the justice system, as well as other systems such as health, social services, housing, and employment, to enable a coordinated response. An effective probation service is a key component in having confidence in our criminal justice system.
I am very glad, therefore, that the Probation Institute has been set up to take a lead in the professional development of those who work in probation. Its work force is the principal asset of Probation. It is knowledgeable and skilled and capable of working across organisations. And it needs to continue to be motivated, trained and developed, no matter what the future service accountability or employment relationships might be. It is plain that this will be particularly the case, in the delivery environment foreseen under the Government’s planned reforms, where the private, voluntary and public sectors will be required to work together.
I welcome, too, the thinking behind the involvement of academics and the many other organisations that should need to play a role in rehabilitation. All this goes to sustain the confidence in our systems, promoting standards and high quality work.
I am therefore very pleased to be able to launch the Probation Institute, starting to admit its members, putting in place an active programme of events, and wish it well for the future.
Savas Hadjipavlou, Interim Chief Executive and interim Director of the Institute and Chief Executive of the Probation Chiefs Association:
In 1876 Frederic Rainer made a five shilling donation to the Church of England Temperance Society. This was to help break the cycle of offence after offence and sentence after sentence. This volunteer initiative created the role of a court missionary.
In 1907 the Probation Service was formally established with the Probation of Offenders Act which converted the then voluntary arrangements into a statutory organisation – 124 men and 19 women were appointed as probation officers.
What probation is today is of course a good deal different from that which existed in its formative years. But also a good deal has stayed the same. In particular probation’s core values and ethics, drawing inspiration from what was the problem then, and what is the problem now: breaking the cycle of re-offending – supporting and guiding offenders to lead useful law-abiding lives.
Probation today, has a role in courts, in prisons, and of course in the community working with the police and many other organisations to supervise and support the rehabilitation of offenders. Today’s Probation employs, directly or indirectly, some 20,000 persons and looks after some 200,000 cases a year. That it has done well is not in question. Probation Trusts have secured many independent awards including the British Quality Foundation’s coveted award – the Gold Medal for Excellence – given to the probation service as a whole.
However no organisation can stand still. There is an obvious gap in the current system, with the majority of those released from short custodial sentences receiving little or no systematic supervision or support following release. Unsurprisingly this group also has the highest rates of re-offending.
The Government’s plans to restructure the organisation of probation services, creating a more diverse environment of providers, are intended to close this gap. While this approach has proved controversial, there has been universal agreement that the strength of probation, in the past and going forward to the future, is the professionalism, knowledge, skill, and commitment of those who work in it. We welcome the clear statements from Ministers and others about supporting the skills and professional growth of those who in the future will be in the 21 Rehabilitation Companies and the National Probation Service. And also welcome the support that Jeremy Wright, Parliamentary Under Secretary for Justice, has personally given to the creation of the Probation Institute, to establish a framework for the professional development, training and skills growth in this important area.
It is worth underlining that the creation of a Probation Institute – at least the concept of what would be the purpose of such an Institute – has been advocated for quite a while. Plainly its time has come. So what will it do?
The partner organisations [PCA, PA, Napo and UNISON] represented here today, have worked hard over the past year to articulate a vision for the Institute, one that we think, at this stage of its development, commands widespread support. We have done so in discussion with many organisations, some of which are represented here today, including academics, Probation’s partners in the community such as the police & local authorities, prospective owners of the Community Rehabilitation Companies, and with the Ministry of Justice.
What are the key features of the Institute?
First and foremost we see the Institute as an independent organisation – not part of Government – becoming the recognised centre of excellence on probation practice. This means applying rigorous standards to the assessment of research and other evidence and its implications for the delivery of services that protect the public and rehabilitate offenders. We see independence as an essential feature so that the Institute is seen by its many stakeholders as an objective and credible advocate for professional and practice issues.
As a professional body, we also see the Institute providing the leadership needed to develop a strong probation profession across private, public and voluntary sectors, creating the framework for unifying the probation workforce as a whole, and enhancing the status of the profession. Along with employers, commissioners, training organisations, Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Probation, and others with a relevant role, the Institute will contribute to the setting of practice standards and the professional development of its members.
The development of a voluntary register of practitioners, capturing the qualifications, skills and experience of the workforce, and supporting continuing professional development, will give the necessary discipline to maintaining professional standards, underpinning the quality of what is done and promoting confidence in the system.
Membership will be voluntary and open both to individual practitioners and corporate organisations concerned with the rehabilitation of offenders. The Institute will provide a safe space for discussion and resolution of the many issues that face probation’s workforce and the professional development of those who work in the sector.
We also see a key and active role for the Institute in being an advocate for probation, explaining the nature of its work, the objectives and outcomes that it achieves. That this is not as well understood as it should be has been clear for some time, and we see the Institute as having an important contribution to make in that respect.
Of course an Institute without members will be an empty shell. We see growing the Institute’s membership as an immediate priority. Alongside that, and in support of making the case for membership, we would want to make early progress, articulating the Institute’s offer on:
- the agenda on skills, competencies and training for those who work in the sector and for people who need to be recruited
- workforce planning
- developing the voluntary practice register
- Engaging the academic and research sector, giving substance to the idea of a centre of excellence, commissioning thematic reviews on various aspects of effective practice, for example:
- A full programme of conference and other events that bring practitioners together
- Developing collaborative relationships with Probation’s partner organisations that crucially need to play role, such as the police, mental health, drug and alcohol organisations, housing and so forth.
There is of course very much to do. Establishing a new organisation is a daunting task, and we are clear that this needs to be a staged approach involving stakeholders.
However, the opening event today signals that we are very much open for business!
Mark Ormerod, Chief Executive, Probation Association, and interim Director of the Institute:
The PA is delighted to be one of the sponsoring organisations for the Probation Institute, but even more delighted that four leading organisations of the probation world have come together to sponsor this long-awaited venture.
It is well known that unions represent staff and their work-related and professional interests; it could be guessed, if it were not known, that the Probation Chiefs Association speaks for the leaders of probation on professional and other matters. What may not be well known is that the Probation Association represents the current employers of probation staff – the probation trusts. To have the representative organisations of junior staff, senior staff, practitioners, leaders and the employers joined together in promoting something that will be of a real value to probation is very powerful. And it is a particular thrill for me to be sitting on the same side of the table as the unions for once.
The PA, like the PCA and the MoJ, is donating seed corn funding for the start of the Institute, as well as staff time and expertise. We want to see it get off to a good start. We are delighted that the Minister, Jeremy Wright, has spoken so well of the Institute needing to be independent if it is to thrive and provide real value. As a membership organisation ourself, we recognise that moving forward on a common agenda can take a lot of tolerance, forbearance and patience, as well as time and hard work. But for all the reasons given by others here today and set out in our statements and publicity, we are agreed that the establishment of a professional Probation Institute is the right thing to do.
Two points particularly resonate with us. In a time of considerable change for the probation service, we see it as important that there is a body that can draw together all those working on probation and rehabilitation, to act as a ‘spiritual home’, to provide some continuity in professional and human terms a well as acting as a centre of excellence for professional practice. Secondly, as the current employers’ organisation, we see great advantage for new employers in the Institute’s aspirations on continuous professional development, the professional register, the promotion of good standards of professional practice in the workforce. These are areas in which a strong and flourishing Institute could provide real assistance to members and to the enrichment of public policy. Other professions have their professional bodies. It is time for probation to join them.
With the dissolution of Probation Trusts, the Probation Association itself will be closing down in July. If our support of the Institute, financial and otherwise, over the remaining few months can help it succeed, then we would see that as a fitting legacy to the over 50 years of supporting the management of probation. I hope that you too will all support the Institute as it proceeds now from launch to journey.
Tom Rendon, Chair, Napo, and Interim Director of the Probation Institute:
Thank you all for coming to our launch event for the Probation Institute.
I’m Tom Rendon, one of the transitional directors. I’m also a Probation Officer and National Chair of Napo.
Part of what we’ll present today will concern what the Institute looks like, what it’s going to do and what the future plans are. I’m going to concentrate on why the Institute will be important to those on the front line, engaged in the day to day delivery of probation work.
Our work is a vocation. It’s emotionally demanding, interesting, worthwhile, eye-opening and, at times, completely impossible.
At its core, we have a belief in the intrinsic value of people and a drive to work with those who have offended to bring them back into the fold through a fine – and professionally determined – balance of care and control.
At its most complex and challenging we work with extremely vulnerable and sometime dangerous individuals. Often this involves the work of others, statutory agencies and the voluntary and private sectors. But it is always based on the quality of our relationships with those who have offended, based on human contact and care. Whether the risk of harm or re-offending is assessed as low, medium or high, all pro9bation clients are entitled to a high quality service provided by well trained professionals.
At its most stressful and difficult, we do our work in an environment of constant change; high workloads, changes in service providers, new contracts bringing new referral processes, a battle against bureaucracy and a welter of Probation Instructions.
Napo has well documented concerns about the government’s plans to part privatise the Probation Service. A new provider does not necessarily equate to innovative practice but, it would be fair to say, neither does doing things the same way.
No model of service delivery can lay ownership to innovative practice because innovation comes from learning, experience and a space for creative freedom, However, that space must not be created by any watering down of quality training, low expectations and a lack of public service values.
It would be wrong to give the impression that the Probation Institute is somehow part and parcel of the Government’s reform programme. Indeed, the idea of it has been around a much longer time.
Probation workers, myself included, have long hoped for a stronger professional identity to project outwards and increase the public’s understanding of the work we do. Continuous professional development is fundamental to our practice but it often feels a bit like “grab it while you can”. To access a structured programme of CPD is, for many of us, both very welcome and quite overdue.
As we work with different providers, and sometimes this changes quite rapidly, it would benefit us to have an idea of the quality of the provision. An organisation which is a member of the Institute would give us reassurance and confidence in referring our client to a particular service. It would be an indicator of quality as the provider will have to meet the standard.
To get the best in probation practice, we need to harness the best ideas and bring together the learning in a trusted, forward looking and reliable place, an independent Probation Institute.
That practice and innovation needs to be anchored in commonly held ethics and values with quality and standards being the golden thread through all our work.
To a practitioner, it will be vital that the Institute is an authoritative voice on probation matters. It will need to be, and seen to be, independent of government although having a constructive relationship with it. Similarly, the Institute will not act as a trade union or a layer of management or a branch of academia. Instead it will forge a new space and be an anchor in the ever changing landscape of community justice.
Ben Priestley, National Officer for Probation, UNISON:
UNISON represents 4,500 members in the Probation Service.
Our members work in a wide variety of roles:
- Probation Services Officers
- Victim Liaison Officers
- Case Administrators
- Approved Premises Supervisors
- Community Payback Supervisors
- Corporate Services Staff
- To name but a few….
Why the list?
Because the staff in all these roles, and indeed, in every role that makes up this great Probation Service, are professionals.
Good at their jobs, highly motivated and proud to be working in a field where they can make a real difference to the lives of others.
Everyone involved in such important work deserves to be called a professional.
And to have the opportunity to develop their professional expertise.
Eventually the Institute will rely on their financial contribution for its existence; their loyalty and commitment an essential building block for what we are launching here today.
So, at a time in the history of Probation when the future for our members is more uncertain than at any other time…the idea of the Probation Institute is a concept whose time has truly come.
UNISON is delighted to be here today to support its launch.
On behalf of our members we have strongly supported the idea of an Institute which can develop an independent professional voice for all those who work in probation.
If we are moving into a world of more plural delivery of probation services, the Institute promises to:
- Accredit the skills and competences of the workforce in the public interest
- Ensure that all who work in probation adhere to high ethical standards and values
- Create the framework for high quality training
- Enable probation workers to develop standards of practice that define the profession, wherever, and for whoever, those employees work
- Provide commissioners with a benchmark for professionalism below which provision will not fall
- Enhance the quality of service and public protection by driving up standards of evidence based practice
All right thinking people will recognise that without these safeguards, Transforming Rehabilitation could easily be a recipe for disaster.
Clearly one of the key challenges for the Institute will be developing its distinctive identity as an independent professional body with credibility with the workforce.
Particular care will be needed to ensure that the goal of evidence based practice and professionalism are not compromised in the future either by political or financial expediency.
Everything that I have seen in the development of the Institute to date reassures me that such compromise can and will be avoided.
Public protection demands that it be so.
Neither can the Institute become the mouthpiece of probation employers, nor of the unions.
The four bodies who have come together to launch the Institute today recognise this, and I would like to praise those with whom we have been working to develop the concept of the Institute for the open, transparent and truly collegiate way in which we have all been working over the last 12 months to arrive at this point here today.
As a trade union official, working in the Probation field for the last 14 years, I recognise in the work of the PCA, PA, Napo and UNISON to build the Institute, that same commitment to true social partnership that characterises so much of our work together in this Service.
This partnership will be a precious asset for the Institute going forward in its work.
UNISON is a trade union, not a professional association.
But our members are professionals.
So the link between UNISON and the Institute is an important one, and one which I hope, in time, will grow and mature into an essential one.
Sue Hall, Chair, Probation Chiefs Association, and interim Director of the Institute:
Speaking as Chair of the Probation Chiefs Association, I can say that today is a watershed for the probation profession.
I have worked in the Probation Service for over 34 years – as a probation officer, as a team manager and, currently as a Chief Executive. Throughout that time, like so many of my colleagues, I have been sustained by a deep commitment to the work and a belief that probation really does make a difference to the community – working largely behind the scenes with some of the most troubled, damaged and at times, dangerous, people in our society – to rehabilitate them and to manage the risk that they pose.
This is not easy work – it requires commitment and resilience and it requires skill and expert knowledge.
Given this, the public might be surprised to know that, unlike most other professions – the closest probably being social work – there is no register of qualified probation practitioners, there is no requirement upon staff to sign up to a code of ethics or to evidence that they have kept their skills and knowledge up to date. There is also currently no lead body which provides independent advice on best practice pulling together the experience on the ground and evidence from research. This is a major gap for everyone who has a stake in probation work.
The PCA has been actively promoting the idea of an independent probation institute for several years. We would say the need is there regardless of government policy for the delivery of services. However we must acknowledge that the need for a professional lead body is sharpened with the imminent break up of the public sector probation service and the move of over 50% staff into 21 CRCs due to be privatised by the end of the year.
The Probation Institute will play a key role in helping staff retain their professional identity in a period of huge change. It will provide assurance to an increasingly diverse group of future employers about the skills level and competences of the staff they employ. As a centre of excellence it will aim to act as a crucible, bringing together the academics, practitioners and policy makers. The fact that there is support from our trade unions colleague – Napo and Unison – from the PA speaking on behalf of the current employers and from Ministers, shows that this is an idea whose time has come.
This is an important day for Probation. Thank you.